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Data Suggests Playable Demos Can Halve Game Sales

Gamelab discussion highlights a worrying statistic.

The chart above, part of a presentation by game designer Jesse Schell at Gamelab today, shows data put together by analytics company EEDAR.

The slide shows that an average Xbox 360 game with –

  • a trailer but no demo sells 520,000 units
  • a trailer and a demo sells 250,000 units
  • no trailer and a demo sells 200,000 units
  • no trailer and no demo sells 100,000 units

– in a six month period.

As CVG say, though this doesn’t take into account which games are analysed or whether the big AAA games (like Call of Duty) that don’t run with demos (or don’t have them until after release) would make any difference.

On the Xbox 360, Arcade games have to have  a demo. Would a substandard demo put people off? Can a publisher twist what a game is like with an unplayable trailer?

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33 Comments
  1. Pesico
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    Could be something to it, but if all Xbox 360 Arcade games need to have a demo, the answer could lie there. I’m not into demos at all, except for a few yearly franchises (NHL), I rarely plays a demo.

    I remember playing the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune demo back in the day and it really turned me off. Wasn’t going to buy the game, but then all the ravings about it made me change my mind. It has since gone on to be my favorite game franchise. Therefore, I almost never play a demo. I make up my mind in other ways about games.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:02.
  2. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    This issue was talked about last year sometime.

    Obviously a poor demo is going to hinder sales, but I find even a good demo prevents me buying a game.

    I get caught up in all the pre-release hype and can’t wait to buy a game then the demo comes along and quenches my thirst leaving me to think about waiting a few weeks for a price drop… which often means I don’t bother at all.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:03.
    • 3shirts
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      That’s an interesting angle. I said below I couldn’t see how a good demo would put you off but this is a valid reason. You could get swept up in the hype and then find that, enjoyable as the demo is, it didn’t (and never could have) lived up to that. If there’d been no demo it would have taken your purchase of the game to find that out.

      Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:08.
  3. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Cor, what a topic. Fascinating, albeit limited, results. I want demos galore so I can try those games that I’m not instantly taken with. However, the door swings both ways on a demo and it means I’ll be turned off from throwing down the necessary moola when I try something and it doesn’t quite resonate with me.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:04.
  4. 3shirts
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    It’s a weird one. On the one hand demos should reduce sales IF the game is poor and the demo is representative. Pre-release demos may not represent the game so could put off buyers who actually would have enjoyed the full game if they’d tried it.

    I can’t see how a demo of a good game, assuming it was final code, can put you off. What I take the data to show is that demos help people avoid bad purchases. Good for us but perhaps not so good for the publishers of shoddy games being sold on promises and whizbang trailers.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:06.
  5. Bilbo_bobbins
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    I’ve played lots of games demos where I think I would buy the game, and end up not purchasing because either the demo was rubbish or I got my fix of the game and wasn’t interested in buying the full game.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:13.
  6. DJ Judas
    Epic
    Since: Aug 2008

    I didn’t buy NFS Hot Pursuit because I thought the demo was terrible. Burnout 3 is one of my favourite games and reviews made it out like HP was more of a burnout game than Paradise was. The demo however completely put me off.

    I bought it second hand recently after EA removing the online passes and it’s great! Not quite B3, bit certainly proof that a poor demo completely put me off a game that in the end I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:16.
    • Nismo400R84
      Member
      Since: Aug 2012

      I really enjoyed the demo a played it abit too much so bought the game and was bored a couple of hours in.

      Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 18:58.
  7. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Interesting data… If there is a trailer then a demo could halve sales, yet the data also seems to show that if there is NO trailer, a demo could double sales. Clearly it’s got more to do with the trailers than the demo, no?

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:17.
    • Nate
      Member
      Since: Apr 2010

      A well made trailer (Dead Island) can get you very excited for a mediocre game (Dead Island), so I can understand why this is true.

      Personally I only find demos of use in games I am unsure about, I find they are often poor representations of a game as a whole. The first 30mins of a game is always the weakest, you need time for the story and characters to take hold.

      That said, I remember playing the demo for Heavy Rain and was so utterly sold by the short bit of narrative, I would have gone out and bought it that day if I could.

      Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 16:05.
      • TSBonyman
        Member
        Since: Dec 2009

        I was just pointing out that according to the data listed above it shows that demos BOTH halve AND double sales.. Just to clarify.. ;)

        Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 17:00.
  8. tactical20
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    Maybe a lot of games just aren’t that good! If something like Colonial Marines had a demo, you could see how that would hinder sales. Instead, the hype from a few trailers was enough to shift semi-decent units.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:27.
  9. jimmy-google
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    I remember some demos, like Bomberman World on the PS1, had enough content that meant I didn’t need to buy the game, I could just keep playing the demo.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:37.
  10. tactical20
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    THPS2 demo disc for PS1 got RIIIIIIIIINSED!!! Even had a park editor bit, so kept us occupied for months. Ahhh, the good old days!

    Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 14:54.
    • Motalla
      Member
      Since: Dec 2011

      The THPS TSA-meets are STILL going strong!!!

      Comment posted on 28/06/2013 at 15:37.

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